Sunday, 12 August 2007

Is it done yet?

How do you know your book is finished?

I am sure Dickens, who wrote detailed outlines of every chapter before he started, knew when the job was done. Those of us who write in a more haphazard way, starting in the middle or at the end, randomly putting down scenes as they pop into our heads, are less certain. With my first book, Rising Fire, I didn't even know what happened in the second half of the book when I began. I worked it out by deciding what the characters would do next in that situation. Episodes I thought would occupy the central section ended up near the beginning. More like making a rag rug than knotting a carpet.

In preparation for Print on Demand on Youwriteon I have revised, read aloud, polished, checked the spacing after every full stop (gah!) and for the moment, I think that's it. But is it? After it's lain fallow for a few weeks, will new thoughts of how I can improve it sprout in my mind?

Should I still be nurturing Rising Fire and Trav Zander, or is it time for them to leave home, find a job and a flat, and make their own way in the world?


  1. An author friend of mine says that books don't really get finished so much as escape.

    MS Word can highlight places where two spaces exist. Also, the find/replace will work for that tedious task of making sure only one space exists following the full stop.

    Should you still nurture Rising and Trav? That is your call. I've dialogued (spelling suggestion says that should be dialogged, which doesn't look right and does not appear in the the AHD or OED) with other YWO authors who take the comments, tweak a bit, and publish. I don't think that brings out the best story. We (royal 'we') write to tell a story. We want others to share in the story. If one has over 75 rejection letters per novel in the drawer then, perhaps, it is time to self publish in order not to self flagellate.

  2. My dad told me not to self flagellate regardless of how many rejections I got. As I recall we weren't talking about writing novels at the time, but it seemed like good advice for which no further elaboration or particularization (I may have made that one up, not sure) was needed.

    Now, back to the subject at hand, as it were. I do think that the best thing to do is to obsess over the book for a good couple of weeks, or until you want to heave it into the landfill. Then, don't touch it for however long it takes for you not to even think about it for more than say, six or seven hours. Ideally, while you are benevolently ignoring your offspring, a trusted soul or three is giving it the critical eyeball. Don't let them talk to you about it until you say "go", just instruct them to make notes on whatever level they think is appropriate (punctuation, word choice, character names, how they would like their name to appear in the dedication, that sort of thing.

    Then I would read their notes, throw out the idiotic ones, make your own notes about the "Gee, she may have a point there" ones, and then read your masterpiece again.

    Then you should be ready to inform your bank branch manager that you are shortly going to be needing a much larger portion of the vault and would he please make the necessary preparations?

    All of this advise has been tested by yours truly. Implement or discard portions as seems appropriate

  3. Norm and Alan, thank you for your good advice. It's very welcome. You're right, it's time I increased my meagre collection of rejection letters.

    Seven? Huh, I'm not even trying.

    (Norm - dialogging sounds right for a Timber Beast).

  4. A decent period of time has passed and now I must know.

    How is it going?

  5. Alan, I don't know! I'm ignoring one book in the pointed manner you suggest, while my sister reads it.

    The other is printed out and at home, with a view to my reading it through out loud again, as I've altered quite a bit. And I can readily recognise your 'heave it into the landfill' stage.

    I need to plan which agents to send them to, and compose winsome letters.

    The daughter is temporarily back from backpacking, the car is not moving, the rain is falling.

  6. How's this? Devote your considerable composition skills to the creation of that query letter. Go through at least five drafts until it absolutely says to the world "Professional Writer--Someone You Most Definitely Want to Work With".

    Believe me, you will have lots of time to further tweak your manuscript after you have sent out this glistening gem of a query letter.

  7. This sounds like good advice.

    With my first round of query letters, they started all puppy-dog enthusiam, a page long, and gradually decreased to a non-time-wasting, 'Here is the start of my novel. I'd be grateful if you would take a look to see if you might wish to read more'.

    None of them, I think, hit the nail on the head.

  8. Oh lord, no "grateful if you would take a peek" language. Remove that posthaste! Or right away, whichever works best for you.

    Oops, there are two disgruntled amateur writers pounding at my door. There is evidence of weaponry. At least they appear to be working together now.

  9. Don't answer it!

    Remember you are only an amateur peacekeeping force. Unpaid, too.

    I will put my all into the next query letter.

    It may end up worse than the others...

  10. If you want me to look at your draft, I will be happy to do so. I suspect Alan would as well.

  11. Norm, that is an offer beyond the bounds of friendship.

    I will take you up on it immediately.


  12. You betcha. I did a look-see/note insert on Lorrie Porter' "Snagglefoot" and thankfully she found it helpful.

    If nothing else, fresh eyes can catch things like errant punctuation, spelling problems that get by SpellCheck and other minor stuff that somehow can escape the notice of the author no matter how many times he or she goes over the piece.

  13. Rising Fire will be the road trip book that Mary will read to me on an upcoming trip. We're thrilled to do so. BTW, I prefer Norm to Norman in the acknowledgments. Standard spelling for Mary. :-)

  14. Alan, that would be great.

    Do you think, as I have two books and do not wish to push either my luck, or the generosity of you and Norm, that I should send you the sequel, Trav Zander?

    (I was dropping the odd hint about critting my book to an old flame on Tuesday, and he said he'd rather stay friends with me...)

  15. I'm not as particular as Norm about the dedication. As long as it goes something like this:

    And my thanks to semi-distinguished author Alan Hutcheson. whose very first novel (insert name of very first novel here) may very well one day be made into a major motion picture with as many changes as Mr. Spielberg deems appropriate.

  16. Trav Zander it is.

    There are pictures, right?

  17. The pictures will be in your head, Alan, (or not, as the case may be).

    TZ would be good, as you've already sorted out the start for me.

  18. Hi Spotty Leopard,
    I'm Annie the new writer on Thank you for leaving a comment for me on the forum.

    May I ask, have you had any thing published yet?

    Best wishes


  19. Not a thing, Annie, and it doesn't look likely any time soon, alas.

    But I have found YWO very helpful, and hope you will too.

  20. Alan: No pictures. Looks like you will need to sketch some out and put them on your website.

    Lexi: Mary and I will be going on our trip on Labor Day Weekend here in the states. So it's RF for the northbound portion. Perhaps we could have TZ for the trip southern?

  21. Norm, this generosity will guarantee you and Mary a dedication in both books.

    Even if it's 'to the couple who kindly read my books and told me to change EVERYTHING except the full stop at the end'.

    Trav is about to wing his way to you.